Deer, beers and unexpected fears (Croydon to Richmond) - In the name of Thiago - Day 265
As you can see, we started as a team of five and Christ alive was it a bit parky. That wind was blowing up like something else and the old titfer was repeatedly being separated from my bonce. On one occasion comically a little later in the day, when we had reached the leafier setting of Richmond Park as it alighted my noggin' for the third or fourth time, I 'chased' it back to a group of toffs where miraculously I captured it immediately where Tibbals (centre of pic above) was immediately on hand with the charity bucket. This comedy double act secured £10 in donations from our onlookers. That's teamwork.
Anyway, back to Croydon momentarily. Here we all are: that's Jamie, Camilla, Lord Tibbals, Nigel and myself stood outside the home for one of the biggest bunch of shysters I've had the misfortune to have had dealings with. Yep, it's Lunar House the base for those complete and utter shitbags - the Home Office.
Here's Tibbals skipping gaily across Mitcham Common, alongside the lovely Camilla - Camilla walked with us as far as Wimbledon today but will be returning on Monday and is the best friend of my wonderful wife Angelica - as we enjoyed an entirely dry if somewhat blustery day. A lot of people, including myself, are frequently surprised by the amount of greenery around London. Once we'd got a couple of miles outside Croydon, we were pretty much enjoying green heathland and woodland walks all the way to Richmond. Bliss.
As well as photographing this lovely old pillock, we also got to see some wild roaming deer, which was a real treat. But much as this was a day to be enjoyed, it was also a day to say thank you and goodbye to two of the mainstays of the trip so far: Jamie and Nigel. Both have been great company offering me encouragement and heavy sarcasm in a reasonably fair-minded way. I have been looked after and taken the piss out of in equal measure. Gentlemen, I thank you. Your work here is done.
There was one moment on our way to Mitcham Common though, which I wasn't thankful to Mr Hickey for. Nigel and I had just stopped for a jimmy and were happily deep in relatively innocuous conversation, when Jamie suddenly emerged further up the path talking from a bush. I found myself momentarily scared shitless until I realised who this talking bush giant was, much to his delight.
Here's one of the reasons I love old Mr Hickey. Look very closely at the lettering on this tattoo that he has on his left arm - a nod to the little man that gave this blog its name and who changed my life forever. Of course, as I continue to tell people, often tearfully, when we have finished for the day in whichever public house we have retired to, I really bloody wish I wasn't doing what I'm doing but as I am doing it, I'm going to approach it as wholeheartedly as I can possibly manage, even on those days when I'm feeling a little flat, as I was today. It's got to be good enough for Thiago. I feel as if the bond with my beautiful little boy is getting stronger if anything. I do miss him so much, it really hurts.
We were able to get quite close to the deer, who graze majestically around Richmond Park, which came as a surprise. They are certainly not tame and they mostly silently convey their wishes to unwanted human contact through the means of clear body language. On a couple of occasions, they also let out what sounded like the noise of a cow mooing, which amused me. If I had been asked to make an educated guess at what a deer sounds like, it most definitely would not have been that. They are extraordinarily graceful animals.
Here I am just a mile from our final destination on day 7 with The Thames winding its way back towards central London and the city just a little further back. That late afternoon sunshine provided a lovely end to a day that marked the end of this phase of the journey. When I restart on Monday after a welcome weekend's rest, apart from Camilla from whose flat I'm writing this now, it will be with a group of people, who will all be 'In the name of Thiago' memorial walk virgins. I look forward to welcoming Nick, Mark and Quinton on Monday for my trip to Uxbridge on the outskirts of West London.
But that's all for another day. The range of ales at The Cricketers was a little on the light side when we visited but you couldn't fault this wonderful place for its location bang opposite Richmond Green. They also accommodated all of us and our aching limbs with no complaint at all. It was lovely place to end the week. On any other day I'd have probably been poring over old photographs of the characters of the game, who gave this Richmond pub its name. Today, I was just glad to have got the first 95 miles in the bag and relieved to rest my weary plates with dear friends.
And here are all our weary plates in their collective glory, getting that very well-earned breather. The exposure of mine to as much open air as possible is a theme that I intend to pursue for as long as the weather will allow, hopefully long into the weekend, before I tape and plaster myself up for the next stage of the walk from Richmond to Uxbridge on Monday.
To the patrons of The Cricketers who donated to my fundraising effort, thank you very much for your kindness and for stopping to talk to me about my little man Thiago. He may not be around to mesmerise you all with his incredible good looks and contagious smile but he would be smiling at you all tonight and saying thank you for supporting his Dad. After all, I need all the help I can get!